Vytas Pazemenas smiling

Vytas Pazemenas

An Alumnus' Estate Gift Provides for the Future


When Vytas Pazemenas first came to Penn State as a freshman in 1957, just a few years after his family fled the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, he hoped that a college degree would be a path to a better life in the United States. By the time he returned in 2008 as the featured speaker in the College of Engineering's Gaelen Entrepreneurship Speaker Series, he had parlayed his degree in electrical engineering into an impressive career capped by the founding of his own successful firm.

"He came here as a refugee when he was eleven years old and didn't speak English," says his wife, Catherine O'Donnell Pazemenas. "But he worked very hard." And Penn State offered Vytas an opportunity to forge an exciting future. "He really appreciated the education he got there," Cathy recalls. "He thought it was an all-around great engineering background."

Inspired by the quality of the instruction, facilities, and research efforts he saw during his visits, Vytas hoped to deepen his relationship with Penn State. "Education was very important to his family and to him," Cathy says. "And he thought that any other students would be very, very fortunate to get the same kind of education that he did."

Sadly, Vytas passed away in 2009 after a sudden, brief illness. But in the months before his death, he took steps to ensure that he would have an impact on Penn State students in the future: He and Cathy established a bequest to Penn State's Department of Electrical Engineering through their living trust. Cathy later worked with the Office of Gift Planning to structure a gift that will establish a named department head position, a faculty chair, or other endowment, depending on the department's needs and the funds available when the bequest is ultimately realized.

"Regardless of its final form, the Pazemenas' gift will give the department crucial support to keep our research and teaching moving forward," says College of Engineering Dean David Wormley, who remembers Vytas fondly as a consummate professional with a vibrant intellect.

In a career built upon his technical abilities and entrepreneurial talents—he'd started his first business, repairing televisions, at age fifteen—Vytas held various engineering and leadership positions with established companies, and ultimately founded his own company in Irvine, California. Aubrey Group, named after the hero in Patrick O'Brian's series of nautical novels, is a contract engineering and manufacturing firm specializing in the development of medical devices. In recognition of his professional achievements, Vytas was posthumously honored with the College of Engineering Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award in 2010.

"Vytas loved being an engineer," Cathy recalls, "and he liked interacting with other engineers." That enthusiasm for his field was part of what pleased him so much about reconnecting with Penn State, as he explored the research and teaching in his old department. As Cathy notes, "he found it very exciting what the faculty and students were doing, the course offerings, and their plans for the future." Thanks to his and Cathy's gift, Vytas will leave a lasting mark on the department he loved.

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to The Pennsylvania State University a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I give to The Pennsylvania State University, a nonprofit corporation currently located at c/o Office of Gift Planning, 212 The 103 Building, University Park, PA 16802, or its successor thereto, ______________* [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to Penn State or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Penn State as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Penn State as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and Penn State where you agree to make a gift to Penn State and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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